If enthusiasm is a good ingredient for growing plants, the Nature Champions Fynbos Garden at Princess Vlei will certainly flourish.
In a project organised by the Princess Vlei Forum, the garden was created on June 2 by 120 learners from five different schools, who came together to clean litter, clear aliens, and plant 475 plants. The plants are all part of the Cape Flats Dune Strandveld system and Cape Lowland Freshwater system, and are indigenous to Princess Vlei. Many of these plants are endemic (occurring only in this area), and many are threatened or endangered. Restoring the natural vegetation will attract pollinators and feeders, and help to restore the overall environmental health of the vlei and surrounds, while beautifying the area for the pleasure of recreational users.
The children were also excited to have an opportunity to experience a canoe ride on Princess Vlei, provided by Gravity Adventures.
The schools involved in the project are Hyde Park Primary, Levana Primary, Harmony Primary, John Graham Primary and Lotus High School. Some of these schools have been involved for some years in cleaning up and rehabilitating Princess Vlei, others are new recruits. Each school will return to the area to monitor the progress of the plants and do further clearing.
Willie Leith, vice-chairperson of the Princess Vlei Forum welcomed the children by saying, ‘Twenty years from now you’ll be very excited if you can come to this space and tell your child, “I helped to plant this here, and to make this space beautiful.”
‘Remember, we have only one earth. Mankind cannot live by steel and concrete alone, we are the custodians of nature and we must make sure that there is a balance. You need to carry the message in yourself and to everyone around you about the beauty of nature.’
Children who participate in these projects not only make a huge social contribution, but also learn the pride that comes with taking responsibility for creating and maintaining a healthy environment and beautiful urban spaces. For many, this was their first experience of planting something and digging in the soil. Many lessons of leadership are learnt in this process, and the children also benefit from an active day outside.
Commenting on the initiative, Ald. Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Special Projects said, ‘It is so heartening to see the community, and particularly, children involved in such activities for spaces like Princess Vlei where nature is set amidst the urban landscape. To have had the children and involved in this conservation effort prior to the celebration of World Environment Day is a positive reflection of what citizens in Cape Town take very seriously – this commitment to look after and enhance our City’s natural heritage and resources.’
The Princess Vlei Forum hopes that local community members will visit the site to see what the children have been doing, and will enjoy the plants as they grow bigger and come into flower. We also hope that visitors to the vlei will respect the efforts of the children, will tread lightly around the plants and will not throw litter or pollute the area.
We would like to thank the Table Mountain Fund, which made the project possible, the City of Cape Town which supplied tools and expertise, Gravity Adventures, Pick n Pay for supplying food, and Cape Flats Life who supplied plants. We would also like to thank the staff and students of the participating schools for making the day a success. We hope that the children’s efforts will soon be complemented by other significant improvements to the area, as the Princess Vlei Forum works with the City in realising the community’s vision for a nature and heritage park at Princess Vlei.
* A list of and short description of the plants that were planted can be down loaded below